Teachers are being forced to bring food into school to feed hungry children, a North East union leader has warned.
Simon Kennedy, regional organiser of the teaching union NASUWT, said school-funded breakfast clubs and teachers bringing food into work was a “sad situation” for the fourth richest country in the world.
However, the Conservative Party said the number of children living in poverty in England and Wales has fallen by 300,000 during the party’s term in office.
Speaking after the NASUWT held its annual conference in Cardiff at the weekend, Mr Kennedy said child poverty has become a growing problem.
“Kids are coming into school hungry and that is affecting their educational attainment,” he said.
“Teachers are bringing food into work because these children would sometimes not otherwise eat.
“Schools are also dipping into their budgets to pay for breakfast clubs which were originally set up to encourage healthy eating among children.
“So many parents in the North East are relying on , especially in Newcastle which has the busiest foodbank in the country.
“Whichever government comes in needs to increase the amount of investment in education. But a basic part of our society should be to ensure that our children are fed. Children of today should not be left to go hungry.”
Teachers at the conference also raised the problem of excessive workload, which they say is not only damaging their mental health, but also driving talented teachers out of the profession.
Nearly 90% of teachers at the conference cited excessive workload as the greatest concern they have about their job.
Mr Kennedy said: “Many teachers work every evening and every weekend and they’re not being paid for it.
“There is this endless drive to improve and what’s best for the child and the teacher has gone out of the window.
“School management is being forced to focus more on the league tables and the next Ofsted inspection rather than the children’s needs.
“Increased workloads, coupled with a cut in pay for teachers, has led to many in the profession leaving work or suffering from mental health problems.
“Media coverage would have you think teachers are failing our young people in some way, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.”
Meanwhile, teachers have backed calls for a ballot on strike action over shortfalls to school funding.
The ballot motion was backed at the National Union of Teachers (NUT) conference in Harrogate, where members heard claims that funding shortages would threaten redundancies.
A Conservative spokesman said:
“Under the Conservatives, the number of children living in poverty has fallen by 300,000.
“Extending free meals has led to over a million more children eating a school meal at lunchtime and by introducing the Pupil Premium, we are targeting an extra £2.5 billion toward the education of the most disadvantaged every year, which helping close the attainment gap with their peers.
“Thanks to our policies, there are more jobs than ever before, wages are rising faster than prices and with the lowest inflation on record, family budgets are starting to go further. The NASUWT should recognise how the Conservatives have rescued the economy, and through that, are delivering the jobs that secure a better future for families.
“Our Child Poverty Strategy is tackling poverty at its source: dealing with the problems of worklessness and family breakdown which blight the lives of vulnerable families. But we know that there is much more to do. We need to stick to our long-term economic plan, so that all children have the best possible start in life.”
> All I can say is it’s a good thing Pinoccio isn’t a government spokesman…
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 08 Apr 2015